The Miner's Weekly Journal
October 24 1868
A Cold blooded Murder. – This community was startled this week when information was received that Mr. Alexander W. Rea agent for the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company, and superintendent of the Coal Ridge Improvement Coal Company was assassinated on Saturday morning last about half past 9 o'clock on his way to the mines, about a mile and a half from Centralia, Columbia county. He received six shots, three of which were mortal. From appearance the pistol must have been placed close to his head, as the powder blackened and burned his face. His remains were found on Sunday morning, about daylight, some thirty yards from the roadside, by the citizens of Centralia, who turned out en masse on hearing of his being missed. Mr. Rea was it is thought, murdered for his money, the assassins thinking he was going to pay the men at the mines; but in this they were mistaken, for they were paid by the secretary of the Company of Friday last week. However, the murderers must have got between $500 and $1,000, which Mr. Rea carried with him to pay other company bills. They also took his gold watch.
A teamster named Fetterman preceded by half an hour Mr. Rea on the road, and he states that he saw five men standing at the place where Rea was murdered. On his approaching them they dispersed into and through the bushes, and he did not recognize any of them. The first information of Rea's murder was his horse and carriage being seen coming towards his house at 6 P. M. The animal was tied some forty yards from the road, and about twenty from where the body was found, and how he got loose is shrouded in mystery. Some think that Mr. Rea had struggled for a time with his murderers and was endeavoring to escape, when he was shot in the back of the head and brought to the ground, and then while down they shot him in the face; but the most plausible conjecture is that he was watering his horse at a water-trough where those men were seen by Fetterman, from the fact that he did so habitually at the same place, and that he had one glove off (another of his habits when watering) when found on Sunday morning, and that while standing they rushed on and murdered him, taking whatever money he had on his person, as well as his watch, which had his name engraved on it. The opinion (illegible) that he must have known all his murderers, and lest he should survive the two first shots and bring them to account, they effectually dispatched him.
Mr. Rea was one of the most estimable citizens of this Region. He was a resident of Centralia; a brother-in-law of Theodore Garretson, Esq, of this Borough, and leaves a wife and six daughters to mourn their sad, irreparable loss, in the death of a devoted husband, a fond, indulgent father. His funeral took place on Wednesday last and was largely attended.
It is the earnest hope of all our citizens that the perpetrators of this atrocious crime will be discovered, and such an example made of them as will vindicate violated law and satisfy justice.
November 21, 1868
Arrest of Parties charged with being Concerned in the Murder of Alex W. Rea. – Our readers will remember the particulars of the late murder and robbery of A. W. Rea, near Centralia, Columbia county. On Tuesday last upon information communicated to the Marshal by Thomas Doorley, Thomas Donohoe of Ashland, and John Duffy of Mahanoy City, were arrested, brought to town and committed to prison. At a hearing on a writ of habeas corpus before Associate Judge Kline on Thursday last, Doorley testified that before the murder of Rea, Donohoe and Duffy had made a proposition to him to assist them in murdering Rea.
Yesterday the testimony taken before Judge Kline, was submitted to Judge Ryon. Up to the hour of going to press we had not heard the decision of Judge Ryon. Donohoe and Duffy were still in prison, and the impression was that they would be remanded for trail.
November 28, 1868
The Rea Murder. – Donohoe and Duffy have been remanded, and will be tried in Columbia county, for the murder of Alex W. Rea.
On Monday last Michael Pryor of Branchdal, was arrested, charged with being implicated in the murder of Mr. Rea. After a hearing before Squire Frailey, Pryor was committed.
The Sheriff of Columbia County has been here and made arrangements for the retention of the accused in the County Prison here until the time of their trial in Columbia.
We understand that important developments have been made in this murder case, which will lead to the arrest of all the parties concerned in this murder and their conviction.
January 23, 1969
Arrest of an Alleged Murderer. – On Thursday last a man named Patrick Hester was arrested near Bloomsburg, Columbia County, charged with being concerned in the murder of Alex.W. Rea, and with being on of the party who just before that murder waylaid and attempted to rob Major J. Claude White. Hester will be brought to this Borough and have a hearing before Squire Frailey.
February 6, 1869
The Rea Murder. – The prisoners charged with this crime claimed separate trials which was granted. The Commonwealth selected Thomas Donahoe as the first one to be tried, and the trial commenced in Bloomsburg, Columbia county, on Wednesday morning last. The following are the jury empanelled to try the case:
Samuel Ale, Wm. White, Elijah Shutt, Peter Evans, Jacob Terwiliger, David Demott, Peter Weaver, Geo. Cavenee, Eli Robbins, (illegible) W. Snyder, Adam Federoff, Samuel C. Keichner.
The whole of the jury list was exhausted before a sufficient number of jurors was selected.
The following are the counsel on each side:
For the Commonwealth, E. R. Ikeler, District Attorney; Lin Bartholomew, of Pottsville; E. H. Baldy, of Danville; R. F. Clark, of Bloomsburg, and M. M. L'Velle, of Ashland.
For the prisoner, Mr. Ryon, of Pottsville; Myer Strones, of Pottsville; John G. Freeze, Bloomsburg; S. P. Wolverton, Sunbury; Wm. Marr, Ashland. Thomas Doorly, a witness for the prosecution, went on the stand on Wednesday afternoon, and was kept on during Thursday. There are between two and three hundred witnesses present, the majority of whom are from this County.
It is thought that the trial will occupy at least a week. There is much excitement growing out of the trial, in Bloomsburg.
February 13, 1869
The Rea Murder. – The trial at Bloomsburg, of Thomas Donohoe, charged with being one of the murderers of A. W. Rea, was concluded on Tuesday last, and on Thursday the jury rendered a verdict of acquittal. It is stated that when the jury went out it stood eleven for conviction and on for acquittal. The Columbia County Republican Thursday, speaks thus of the counsel engaged in the case:
The counsel on the part of the Commonwealth well (illegible) arduously performed their duty. Mr. Ikeller, Mr. L Bartholomew, Mr. Baldy, Mr. Clark and Mr. L'Velle deserve great credit for the masterly manner in which they developed and presented the case. The later deserves especial mention for his untiring energy exhibited in working up the evidence.
"On the other hand the prisoner was very ably defended. There are few more able or competent lawyers in our State than Mr. Ryon of Pottsville, or Mr. Wolverton of Sunbury.
" R. (illegible) Clark, Esq., opened to the jury on the part of the Commonwealth, followed by Mr. Ryon of Pottsville and Mr. Freeze on the part of the prisoner, and the case was closed yesterday morning by Mr. Bartholomew on the part of the Commonwealth.
Immediately after Donohoe's acquittal he was re-arrested charged with attempting on the 14th of October last and again on the 17th of November, (illegible) Maj. Claude White on the highway in this county. The prisoner was expected to reach this Borough yesterday afternoon, in custody of officers and have a hearing before Squire Frailey.
May 15, 1869
John Duffy on trial at Bloomsburg last and this week, for the murder of A. W. Rea, has been acquitted. Hester has been admitted to bail and Prior discharged.
Hon. Lin Bartholomew, one of the counsel for the prosecution, ably sustained his reputation as a powerful criminal lawyer. We quote from the Bloomsburg Republican of Wednesday:
"The evening of Monday was set apart for the plea in behalf of the Commonwealth by Lin Bartholomew, Esq., of Pottsville. During the previous trial the reputation of this able jurist had become so fixed in the minds of our people, that the information being communicated to the citizens generally that Mr. Bartholomew was to speak in the evening was sufficient to fill the Court House to overflowing, with a large number of ladies forming a portion of his listeners. We are unable, even if we had the ability, to convey as accurate idea of this brilliant and thoroughly convincing argument. Every man in the house held spell bound with the strains of eloquence and true logic which escaped from his lips."
After giving the points of his speech, the Republican again says:
"It was one of the grandest appeals in behalf of justice we have ever listened to. No undue excitement - no prejudice – no exhibition of unkind feeling towards the prisoner engendered by a long and ardent devotion to the case, but in a calm, dignified and forcible manner he presented the plain facts of the case as set forth in the trial with convincing power."